Wednesday, July 4, 2012

WELCOME BACK WEBHEAD: The Amazing Spider-Man Review

I am first and foremost a comic book fan. And while Batman is my all-time favorite superhero, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is a close second. So naturally, I had seen Sam Raimi's take on the wall-crawler—yes, even the lackluster SPIDER-MAN 3—when they originally came out over 10 years ago. And, naturally, I was highly dubious of a Spidey reboot, especially given how fresh Raimi's final installment in the original trilogy really wasn't all that long ago. But I'm glad to say that after seeing the aptly-named Marc Webb's ("(500) Days of Summer") debut foray into both the big-budget and comic book movie universe, all I can say is that he outdid Sam Raimi. And Joss Whedon. And outdid them DIRTY. Yes, that's a bold statement. And yes, "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" has its flaws (I'm looking at you, guys who did the CG effects on The Lizard!!) but the pros vastly outweigh the cons. TASM is a visually stunning and emotionally gripping film, spectacularly cast and magically written (yes, that pun was intended for legendary Harry Potter screenscribe Steve Kloves). I have no problem saying that it was better than THE AVENGERS, and I know many people would disagree with me, but while I give every movie the benefit of the doubt, my hat has to tip in Spider-Man's favor. I liked THE AVENGERS, make no mistake. But I wasn't able to take the journey WITH those characters. In TASM, I got to take a journey with Peter Parker, and a very believable one (now, if only I had a genetically enhanced spider to nip me on the neck, we'd be all set). Andrew Garfield is a self-professed Spidey fanboy, and man does it show onscreen. He gets EVERY aspect of both Peter and Spider-Man, and I could believe him much more easily than I could believe Tobey Maguire. Garfield plays every maskless scene as Parker with nuanced awkwardness so befitting of the character, and it was a joy to watch his development from zero to hero. His real-life love interest (the lucky bastard!!) Emma Stone shines as Gwen Stacy, and it's great to watch their natural offscreen chemistry translate seamlessly onscreen. Stone gives Gwen equal parts strength and sensitivity, and her natural charm and humor places her firmly as one of the most irresistible comic book movie female leads to date. Webb was very wise in making their relationship the core of the film, a solid foundation to build the story on. But surrounding these trailblazing up-and-comers is a great veteran cast led by Martin Sheen as Ben Parker, who is (in my opinion) a far more relatable Uncle Ben than the late, great Cliff Robertson. That's not to knock Robertson's overall performance in the Raimi trilogy, but Sheen plays a far more transparent Ben, which makes his (*SPOILER!!*) inevitable death all the more tragic. Sally Field is marvelous as Aunt May, and there is a far different and interesting dynamic between her and Peter in this go-round. And of course I couldn't NOT mention Dennis Leary, who gives a surprisingly stirring performance as Capt. Stacy, Gwen's father. I've always enjoyed Rhys Ifans' acting, so I was excited to see him back on the screen. His portrayal of Dr. Curt Connors is very good, although not the best villain this summer (Tom Hiddleston's Loki holds that spot until July 20th) but overall he gave a very good performance. For a first-time action director, Webb shows that he can indeed handle a perfect balance between emotionally engaging small scenes and great action setpieces. The film flows at a pace comparable to "Batman Begins" and is, in my overall opinion, far better than "The Avengers".

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